There's a new interactive performance art project, called LAUREN, which is now available online for sign-up and viewing, meant to explore concerns and questions surrounding the current influx of digital A.I. assistants and smart homes. The project involves project-creator Lauren McCarthy taking on the role of an A.I. smart hub such as those powered by Amazon's Alexa or Google's Assistant. Once a person applies to take part in the program and is accepted as an active participant, various remotely controllable plugs, switches, cameras, microphones, and speakers are installed in that person's home. Following subsequent interviews and discussion, those who participate in the experiment will be involved for three days at 24-hours per day. The installed electronics are used to steer the participant into a simulated virtual assistant and smart home experience, with McCarthy at the helm. McCarthy will not only try to control the participant's home when its requested, either. In addition to answering questions or responding to commands, she will also try to learn or predict needs and desires, in order to act autonomously.
The first question that's likely to jump to anybody's mind about the project upon viewing what's been done is how inherently insecure or invasive it seems to be. In fact, the project may be better described as a social experiment. However, that is, according to McCarthy, the purpose behind the project and it's something that shows potently through the test runs and sessions that have already been completed. It's intended to serve as a "meditation on" the technologies that are becoming ever-more popular for use in homes around the world. More directly, it acts as a catalyst to spur introspection about the tensions generated by technology as it pertains to concerns about privacy and agency. Primarily, the focus is set on examining how intimately smart devices can get to know users and what the trade-offs are between free will and convenience.
Unfortunately, for those who may be interested in trying out the project for themselves, there aren't likely to be too many spots available, thanks to the way LAUREN is set up to work. There is also a video-application required – likely to help eliminate any possible threats or insincere applicants. With that said, there also examples of the work that's been done so far available for viewing on the associated website and, for those still not deterred, both those and sign-up instructions can be accessed through the source link below.